Heart Disease No More!

Risk factors for heart disease: Frequently asked questions
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About the author. Related Links. From the Publisher St. High blood pressure is a lifelong risk and requires effective long-term management, including regular blood pressure checks and the appropriate medicines. Pregnancy may trigger high blood pressure, especially during the third trimester, but high blood pressure caused by pregnancy usually goes away after childbirth.

Women and Heart Disease

This is called pregnancy-induced hypertension. Another form of high blood pressure that can occur during pregnancy is called preeclampsia, and it is usually accompanied by swelling and increased protein in the urine. Women with a history of preeclampsia face double the risk of stroke, heart disease and dangerous clotting in their veins during the 5 to 15 years after pregnancy. Doctors look at how your levels of LDL, HDL, and fats called triglycerides relate to each other and to your total cholesterol level.

Before menopause, women in general have higher cholesterol levels than men because estrogen increases HDL levels in the blood. A study reported in the American Journal of Cardiology found that HDL levels were one of the most important predictor of cardiovascular health.

But after menopause, HDL levels tend to drop, increasing the risk of heart disease. HDL and LDL cholesterol levels can be improved by diet, exercise, and, in serious cases, statins or other cholesterol-lowering medicines. Obesity is a strong predictor for heart disease, especially among women. Where fat settles on the body is also an important predictor.

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Women who have a lot of fat around the waist are at greater risk than those who have fat around the hips. In the United States, about one third of women are classified as obese.

A plan of diet and exercise approved by your doctor is the best way to safely lose weight. Diabetes is more common in overweight, less active women and poses a greater risk because it cancels the protective effects of estrogen in premenopausal women. Results of one study showed that women with diabetes have a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than men with diabetes have.

The increased risk may also be explained by the fact that most diabetic patients tend to be overweight and physically inactive, have high cholesterol levels, and are more likely to have high blood pressure. Proper management of diabetes is important for cardiovascular health. Many studies have shown that exercise reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, increases HDL cholesterol levels, regulates glucose, lowers blood pressure, and increases the flexibility of arteries.

Exercise has also been shown to reduce mental stress as well. You can benefit from exercising even it is only for 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week, but more will reap better benefits.

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Oral contraceptives birth control pills may pose an increased cardiovascular risk for women, especially those with other risk factors such as smoking. Researchers believe that birth control pills raise blood pressure and blood sugar levels in some women, as well as increase the risk of blood clots. The risks associated with birth control pills increase as women get older.

Women should tell their doctors about any other cardiovascular risk factors they have before they begin taking birth control pills. Excessive alcohol intake can contribute to obesity, raise triglyceride and blood pressure levels, cause heart failure, and lead to stroke. Although studies have shown that the risk of heart disease in people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol is lower than in nondrinkers, this does not mean that nondrinkers should start drinking alcohol or that those who do drink should increase the amount they drink. For women, a moderate amount of alcohol is an average of one drink per day.

Stress is considered a contributing risk factor for both sexes, especially as it leads to other risk factors such as smoking and overeating.